GRANGEVILLE, Idaho — If you are planning a trip to the high country, remember many campgrounds are not open, and your best bet is dispersed camping. But recreating in remote places has risk, like in the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest, where a Fish and Game officer confirmed fresh grizzly bear tracks less than ten miles from Grangeville in April.
Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest Supervisor Cheryl Probert says that, and the potential spread of a new pandemic are just additional risks outdoor enthusiasts face.
"In some respects COVID-19 and bears, be them black bears or grizzlies, are just another one of the risks people need to be aware of out in their surroundings as they're recreating," said Pobert.
So what do you do if you see a grizzly or black bear? Your instinct might be to run, but that may be the worst thing you can do.
"The first thing you want to do is identify yourself as human," said Fish and Game grizzly researcher Jeremy Nicholson. "Don't run away. And if you are with a group of people, everybody get together and make yourself look as big as possible. If the bear's just standing there, increase the distance to get away from it. But if it's coming toward you, stand your ground, because anytime you're moving away from it and it's moving toward you, it may trigger that predator drive."
This educational video from Fish and Game is just one of many resources that can help you identify black bears and grizzlies. While grizzlies may be more ferocious, both can be dangerous, especially if they are protecting a food source or cubs. And if one attacks, the age old advice still stands.
"This is when you play dead. A lot of people say 'is that really what you do?'" said Nicholson. "This is what you do. You don't want to play dead when the bear is forty yards away, but when the bear gets close to you, you wanna hit the ground, cover your neck. Hopefully you have a backpack on." You're keeping your vital organs safe. The bear is gonna get on top of you, and the best thing you can do is not put up any fight, not make any noises or anything."
Fish and Game and forest officials hope outdoor enthusiasts will be bear aware, while also remaining aware about the ever-changing restrictions surrounding COVID-19.
"We certainly know how important public lands are to people in Idaho." said Probert. "And we want them to get out and enjoy them as normally as possible within the context of a pandemic."
Click here for information on bears in national forests.
Click here for information on bears from IDFG